More than one million pilgrims will descend on Rome next month to celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II, just six years after his death. But they – and millions of other devotees around the world – know it will still take a miracle for the revered former pontiff to be declared a saint, reports the Independent.
And the hunt for that miracle starts in earnest on May 1 – from the moment he is declared "blessed" during a mass in St Peter's Square led by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.
Confirmation of the beatification came in February when Benedict officially recognised a French nun's remarkable recovery in 2005 from Parkinson's disease as the miracle that was needed for the penultimate step on the way to sainthood.
But Monsignor Slawomir Oder, who is leading John Paul II's canonisation cause, is already looking ahead. "Let's not forget that beatification is only a stage, looking ahead to the great day when the Church, after recognising another miracle attributed to John Paul II, will be able to raise him to glory as a saint," he says on a new website.
A book out this week, Vivi dentro di noi (You Live Inside Us), by Polish writer Aleksandra Zapotoczny, lists 120 alleged miracles that have occurred to those praying to John Paul II and suggests that fresh claims won't be long in coming.
In a theological sense, the activity of worshippers has no bearing on whether John Paul II becomes a saint. God will have already decided that. The process of canonisation, by answering two people's prayers with miracles, is simply the proof that he's already in paradise.
In the real world, at a time when the Catholic Church has been severely damaged by paedophilia and financial scandals, there's tacit acceptance that celebrating one of the institution's best-loved personalities with a sainthood cannot come soon enough. The popular pressure to make him a saint should prove irresistible.
But experts inside and outside the church acknowledge that the institution faces a delicate balancing act in satisfying the wishes of the faithful while ensuring the canonisation process retains a modicum of credibility.
FULL STORY Saint-in-waiting: the miraculous afterlife of John Paull II (Independent)